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How to Measure the Effectiveness of Your Financial Wellness Programs

France ordered 2,000 new state of the art trains at a cost $20 billion. As some of the trains were completed in 2014, an embarrassing problem became evident—the trains were too wide to fit into the train stations. The cost to fix the mistake by widening the train platforms was $68 million—all caused by poor measurement. Likewise, you need accurate measurement of your financial wellness programs’ effectiveness to ensure that plan sponsors can see that the programs fit their needs and are worth their investment.

We’ll cover three areas about measuring the effectiveness of a financial wellness program:

  1. What to measure
  2. How frequently to review metrics
  3. Who can measure


1. Start by determining what to measure

Ann Schleck & Co. recommends that advisors begin by discovering and documenting plan sponsors’ financial wellness goals, which can be divided into two categories: corporate objectives and employee objectives. Corporate objectives include:

  • Recruiting and retaining talent
  • Improving employee appreciation
  • Managing benefits costs
  • Improving productivity
  • Decreasing absenteeism.

Use the form on page 11 of our Financial Wellness How-To Guide (download below) with plan sponsors to rank which of these topics is most important. Tailor the form as needed to match the specific needs of each of your plan sponsor’s clients. Additional plan sponsor objectives could include 401k participation, average deferral rate, HSA contributions, debt paid off, emergency funds, and decrease in retirement plan loans.

Discover how plan sponsors view employee needs

Document what plan sponsors want their employees to get out of a financial wellness program. Corporate employee objectives can include:

  • Obtaining a higher level of financial well-being
  • Improving satisfaction with employer
  • Gaining financial knowledge (e.g., reduce debt, greater use of budgets, able to save for major purchases)
  • Increasing retirement readiness (e.g., account balances, diversification, contribution rates, readiness scores, loan use)

Assess employee needs with a survey

After you’ve captured plan sponsor views on corporate and employee objectives, assess employee needs directly with an employee survey to discover their needs surrounding:

  • Getting the most out of their retirement plan
  • Planning for retirement
  • Investment planning
  • Saving and budgeting
  • Caring for others

Use the form on page 12 of our How-To Guide to capture employees’ levels of interest in each of these areas. Meet with plan sponsors and discuss whether or not their corporate objectives align with the results from your survey results.

Additionally, use the survey to find out employees’ communication preferences when participating in a financial wellness program. Do they prefer receiving information in print, on the phone, or on webcasts?

Despite the fact that a survey can be an effective way to identify employee objectives, many DC specialist advisors aren’t using them. During a Hartford Funds webinar in July 2017, 82% of advisors polled said they hadn’t conducted such a survey.

Summarize your findings on a goal summary page

Use the form on page 16 of our How-To Guide to summarize the top plan sponsor corporate and employee objectives, and employee communication preferences. Meet with plan sponsors and review this document to make sure they agree on the program objectives.

Assess how well financial wellness programs are meeting goals for your practice

In addition to measuring progress on plan sponsor and employee metrics, evaluate how well your financial wellness programs are meeting your goals. Use the form on page 21 of our How-To Guide to evaluate programs in these areas:

  • Client time commitment
  • Quality of program metrics
  • Quality of meeting materials
  • Quality of online resources
  • Employee engagement
  • Assessment of vendor


2. How often should you meet to review metrics with plan sponsors?

Start the conversation with plan sponsors about measurement at the beginning of the process. Make sure that everyone involved, including plan sponsors, recordkeepers, and third-party providers, agree on the program objectives. Then, at a minimum, meet annually with the plan sponsor to share program results. It often makes sense to meet quarterly to share progress on certain objectives, such as employee productivity, absenteeism, and benefit utilization. We offer two resources in our How-To Guide that can help with your program review meetings: a sample progress report on page 19 and recommended review frequency on page 11.


3. Who can help you measure program effectiveness?

If you’re working with recordkeepers or third-party providers to deliver financial wellness programs, ask about their capabilities to measure a program’s effectiveness. Request samples of their program measurement reports. In our Financial Wellness Provider Comparison Guide, we outline which third-party providers (pp. 6-7) and recordkeepers (pp. 26-34) offer program measurement and reporting capabilities.

What about measuring ROI in dollars?

Most plan sponsors expect you to quantify their programs’ effectiveness on improving employee financial behavior. And some plan sponsors may want to see hard dollar results. Financial Finesse published an ROI Special Report in 2016 that suggested an employer of 50,000 people could save as much as $23 million by instituting a financial wellness program that:

  • Improves employee behavior regarding wage garnishments, absenteeism, FSA and HSA participation
  • Reduces employer health care costs
  • Reduces costs of delayed retirement
  • Reduces turnover


To summarize, we’ve covered:

  1. What to measure
  2. How frequently to review metrics
  3. Who can measure


Demonstrate that your financial wellness programs are a good fit for plan sponsors

The embarrassing European train debacle was caused by inaccurate measurements. At the beginning of your financial wellness implementation process, spend the time to define how you’ll accurately measure progress towards plan sponsor objectives. Then when it’s time to report results, plan sponsors will see that their investments in financial wellness programs are well worth it.

Next Steps:

  1. Download or order our Financial Wellness How-To Guide below
  2. Get sample forms at
  3. Within two weeks, meet with a plan sponsor client or prospect and use the Confirm Plan Sponsor Goals form on page 11 of the How-To Guide to document program objectives


More on financial wellness


Hartford Funds has engaged Ann Schleck & Co. LLC to develop the materials referenced herein. Ann Schleck & Co. LLC is not an affiliate or subsidiary of Hartford Funds. 

Hartford Funds does not provide investment recommendations or advice.  Hartford Funds does not serve as a fiduciary. This material is for use only by parties that satisfy the Sophisticated Counterparty Exception of the Department of Labor Fiduciary Rule.